We have everything we need, let’s take action!
Current Articles of Interest to WIFT members
April 26, 2021
By Simone Pero, NYWIFT & WIFT International Board Member
We have everything we need!
Just over twenty-five years ago, I had one of those extraordinary experiences that shape and stay with you for a lifetime. As a government public policy specialist at the time, I was working on the official United States’ preparation for its participation in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, and gearing up to travel to Beijing to witness live Hillary Clinton famously proclaim, “women’s rights are human rights.” I was 25 myself, a passionate social advocate awestruck at participating in the largest gathering of women ever. It was the most inspiring and unglamorous grassroots activism event imaginable. That’s why this month, as I followed the major effort of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) currently stirring at the United Nations, I surprisingly had renewed hope and vigor. As the GEF secures transformational investments and commitments on immediate and sweeping advancements for gender-equal societies in a post-COVID-19 era, I see for the first time in a long time a path to finally achieve the human rights of all women and girls as envisioned by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Now, almost exactly 25 years later, I am fired up to see real and lasting change take root in my own industry of film and television. As the sector with the largest reach and cultural influence in the world, we in media and entertainment have arguably the greatest potential to inspire social progress on a massive scale. It is time for us to step up and make bold and transformative commitments towards gender equality.
As we move closer to the other side of the pandemic pause, we have an opportunity to make a profound shift – on screen, behind the scenes, and in living up to stated ideals. Here are three ideas to get started.
● First, decision-makers in all facets of the film and TV-making process must immediately stop and look at their hiring and promotion decisions. We need a faster unwavering commitment to proportionate representation in gender, race, and all those historically marginalized at every level and on an ongoing basis.
● Second, if films and movies are to be metaphors for a transformational process, why not leverage them in a positive direction to help audiences grapple with tough issues like intolerance, inequality, and all the “isms,” that fuel the massive unrest on our streets? Multilayered entertainment with imperfect and inspiring characters and intersectional themes that reflect the experiences of our whole populous may be the panacea we need to make sense of the times. More of these projects need to be greenlit, funded, developed and distributed now and at a rapid pace.
● Third, let’s fully acknowledge that there is no paucity of story, material, and talent. We have a ready supply of diverse, talented storytellers of all genders, racial and ethnic backgrounds and life circumstances; an abundance of scripts and material rich in complexity across genres; a diverse slate of actors waiting to dive into pages of lines; and hundreds of aspiring and seasoned craftspeople behind the scenes at the ready every day.
At last year’s Venice Film Festival actress Tilda Swinton left the audience sobbing with her inspiring remarks about the power of cinema to “face our reckonings.” Ultimately, Swinton waxed optimistic saying “we can continue to rely on the great, elastic, wide, wild, bouncy, boundary-less and perpetually inclusive state of cinema. We have everything we need.”
While I pondered and admittedly questioned this notion of the industry having everything we need, the answer became abundantly clear. We absolutely have everything we need, right at our fingertips. The feminist activism I saw back then in Beijing is alive and flourishing, just look at all the new WIFTI chapters popping up around the globe. I believe our film and television has a responsibility to step up and exemplify the changes we need for equality, both in its own house and in all its public facing glory.
Let’s do this!